An Overview of Progress on Sanitary Equipment and Facility Design

An Overview of Progress On Sanitary Equipment And Facility Design

by David Dixon, Food and Beverage SBU Leader, O’Neal, Inc.

Food safety is a broad topic, but close attention to the sanitary design of equipment and facilities is key, along with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP/HARPC), ingredient supply chains, processing and recipes. This is an overview of Sanitary Design for the past fifteen years.

Leaders in the food industry recognize their moral responsibility to produce safe food. And the potential negative impact on brands and stock price is a strong motivator. Further pressures come from customers, consumers and regulations. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and customer-quality programs such as Costco’s all highlight food safety and sanitary design.

Overview of the History of Sanitary Design
It’s been some time since the USDA ended its policy of reviewing and approving documents submitted prior to new construction or renovation. The best-known guidance sources at that time were the USDA Blue Book, guidelines from various food companies and design manuals from engineering firms.

Consistently active during this period was Kraft Foods, which held training courses for their suppliers. A buyer could even specify “the Kraft standards” from certain equipment manufacturers. This led to the Equipment Design Task Force of the American Meat Institute (AMI), now the North American Meat Institute (NAMI).

In 2002, NAMI developed 10 principles of sanitary equipment design:
•    Cleanable to a microbiological level
•    Made of compatible materials
•    Accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning and sanitation
•    No product or liquid collection
•    Hollow areas must be hermetically sealed
•    Avoid niches, cracks and other harborages for microbiological growth
•    Promote sanitation during operations
•    Hygienic design of maintenance enclosures
•    Hygienic compatibility with other plant systems
•    Validated cleaning and sanitizing protocols

In 2004, NAMI championed the Facility Design Task Force (FDTF), which developed 11 principles of “Sanitary Design Principles for Facilities:”
•    Distinct hygienic zones are established in the facility
•    Control the movement of personnel and materials flows to reduce hazards
•    Water accumulation is controlled inside the facility
•    Room temperature and humidity are controlled
•    Room air flow and room air quality are controlled
•    Site elements should facilitate sanitary conditions
•    Ensure that the building envelope facilitates sanitary conditions
•    Interior spatial design promotes sanitation
•    Building components and construction facilitate sanitary conditions
•    Utility systems are designed to prevent contamination
•    Sanitation is integrated into facility design

Following this, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) modified the NAMI’s work to better address low-moisture foods. The GMA Equipment Design Checklist for Low Moisture Foods was released in 2009. Designers use the tool to help identify problems that limit the effectiveness of sanitation procedures.

Additionally, there have been a few sector-specific initiatives. The Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh Cut Produce Industry became available in 2001, and the GMA issued the “Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts” almost a decade later. Also, there is AIB International, an organization that facilitates food safety for grain-based products and is a source of information on sanitary design and operations.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and 3A have developed standards and guidelines for equipment. The European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG) certifies equipment and issues guidelines for sanitary equipment design; 3A and UL also certify. One source that consolidates much of the available literature is Commercial Food Sanitation.

Of course, the FSMA and the associated Allergen Control and Food Defense elements of FSMA provide a strong motivation to implement sanitary design, but it is not prescriptive and does not require specific design approaches.

Investment in sanitary design is justified not just as a prerequisite for food safety, but as a route to reduced operating costs. Equipment and facilities utilizing the best standards of sanitary design clean faster with fewer chemicals, less labor and lower wastewater treatment costs. In many operations, yields are improved and scrap is reduced. Higher asset utilization results and personnel safety is enhanced. Understanding and maximizing these links requires experience and expertise.

While the amount of information available to plant owners and operators has improved in recent years, it is not practical to assume that reading through the documents available websites will be sufficient to ensure sanitary design. Forward-thinking food companies will use a variety of resources, including third-party consultants, experienced designers and other specialists to ensure sanitary design success.

David C. Dixon is Food and Beverage SBU Leader for O’Neal. Dixon graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas.